The first big question you have to answer when you choose to bet online is where you’ll play. Run a search on Google and you’ll find hundreds of options. There’s a massive variety in aspects as simple as whether or not residents of United States may join, which games are offered, how quickly withdrawals are paid and so on. Invest a little effort now in choosing where you play and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the games later.
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Your country of residence will always play a role in determining which options are available to you. Even on the interconnected world of the internet, the complex array of international gaming laws impacts how sites operate, who they accept and which games they offer. US online casino sites cater specifically to American tastes and operate in a manner designed to navigate the legal landscape here in the USA.
With that in mind, I’ve listed the best US-friendly casinos above. These are the best in my opinion because they excel in all the key areas: safety, game selection, withdrawals and deposits. Playing at an online casino should be easy and fun, not an exercise in patience. The sites that you see on this page have always provided me with a positive experience.
The most important consideration always has been and always will be safety. There’s no need to gamble with your money before you even see a table. There are too many quality sites out there for you to ever feel obligated to play somewhere that doesn’t provide you with the same level of quality that you’d see at a major casino in Las Vegas.
When we discuss the United States in particular, federal gaming laws play a role in determining where to play. Gambling laws in the United States are vague, poorly written, sporadically enforced and oftentimes contradictory. Further complicating matters, individual states have their own laws that don’t always line up with laws at the national level.
Some casinos sites no longer accept customers from the USA as a result. For them, it’s just not worth dealing with the complicated legal situation. The good news is that the US is still a multi-billion dollar online gambling market and plenty of respectable sites are happy to walk the legal minefield in the US. We’ll go into more detail on that later. For now, know that my recommendations are all quality sites that are happy to take players from the United States.
How to Find an Online Casino in the United States
Online gambling is an unregulated industry in most US states. In some ways, this is a good thing because operators are free from onerous regulations and taxes. The barriers to entry are low and anyone with a good business idea can give it an honest shot. However, a lack of regulation makes it difficult for players to sort the good from the bad. It’s not like you can visit your state’s gaming commission and find a list of state-licensed gambling sites.
Finding a legitimate casino is a matter of research. If you understand the industry like I do, it’s not too much trouble to run a little due diligence to see if a site actually pays players, runs fair games and operates in good faith. If you’re new to the game, this may be a tall order. You can always just take my word for it but if you want to go it alone, here’s what you need to do.
First of all, the most effective way to find safe US casino sites is to compile information from a variety of sources. Casinos reviews from other websites are always good for reading a different perspective. People all have their own ideas about what separates the good from the bad.
Another couple of options are to ask your friends or visit gambling discussion forums for recommendations. These “word of mouth” resources tend to be unbiased because they have no financial interest in telling you where to play. Ask around enough and eventually you’ll start to see some casinos named more often than others. Those will usually be your best bet.
I wouldn’t recommend relying too much on one source because you never know what someone’s motivations may be. Certain review websites simply recommend whoever pays the most and I’ve even seen casinos send “shills” to discussion forums for the sole purpose of talking up the brand or trashing competitors. Compiling information from multiple sources will give you a more balanced perspective.
Real Money Deposits
If you have any intention of gambling for real money, you’re going to have to make a deposit at some point. Depositing to a casino site is just like paying for something online. The difference is that you’re not actually paying for anything. The money that you deposit is simply moved to your betting account for you to use however you wish.
Deposits have always been a little tricky for US casino sites because banking regulations are all over the place when it comes to online casinos. Over the years, different deposit methods for US players have come and gone, but a few have remained in action for the long haul.
One of the easiest methods for funding your account is the simple Visa debit card or credit card. Funding your casino account with a credit card is basically the same as buying something online. All you have to do is fill out your information and choose an amount to deposit. Your casino account will then be credited with real money.
The only problem with credit cards for US players is that some banks block all transactions to gambling sites. This doesn’t happen to everybody, but we do get reports of it from time to time. The best way to get around this issue is to either try a different card or try a different deposit method.
Some online casinos also accept wire transfers as a deposit method. Wire transfers are super-fast but they require a little work since you actually have to request the transfer from your bank. However, this deposit method is perfect for high rollers who need to make large deposits.
One other deposit method that has become popular in recent years is the cash transfer. Many US-facing casinos let you deposit by visiting a Western Union or MoneyGram station to send them cash. This does require you to get up and leave the house, but it is fairly fast and it gets the job done. Plus it comes in handy if you don’t want to give your banking information to the casino.
In the excitement of finding a casino and gambling it up, people tend to overlook the most important consideration of all: getting paid. The same legal issues that affect deposits also impact withdrawals. Some casino sites have proven much more dedicated than others when it comes to making sure their customers are promptly paid their winnings.
In the United States, the two most common withdrawal methods are paper checks and electronic bank transfers. The paper check is the most popular option of the two these days because it’s so reliable. You log in to your betting account, request a payout and a paper check shows up at your front door a few days later. It may not be as convenient as getting paid via PayPal, but companies like PayPal are reluctant to process gambling transactions in the US where banking laws are always changing.
Larger withdrawals are often processed via wire transfers straight to your bank account. This option is more expensive on the casino’s side, so it tends to be reserved for larger withdrawals. If you do have the option to receive a wire transfer, that’s usually the best. It’s the fastest, it goes straight to your bank account and you never have to leave the house to complete the deposit like you would with a check.
US casino sites typically contract third party payment processors to help get players paid. The best US casinos keep more than one payment processor under contract at any time so that if one gets shut down by US authorities, another one is ready to take its place and prevent any interruption of service for the players.
One thing I like to do is research the payment history of gambling sites. If you research discussion forums and talk to other players, you can get a pretty good idea of how quickly a site tends to pay its players. Any US-facing site that consistently pays players within a couple weeks is doing a good job under the circumstances.
What I don’t like to see is a history of delayed payments or bounced checks. These issues indicate a lack of advance planning and professionalism. Yes, these sites do work in an unfavorable legal environment but that’s the choice they make to serve the world’s largest gambling market. Getting paid should never be a hassle. Getting paid is the entire point of gambling in the first place.
The sites that you see on this page are all very strong in this area. The best USA casinos have been processing payments to US-based players for years. Other sites may have good excuses for payment issues, but that’s just not good enough. If a site can’t pay everyone on time, it’s simply not worth it. The sites that I recommend don’t offer excuses; they pay their customers.
The Legal Situation
Playing or wagering at an online casino is not considered a crime in the United States at the federal level. The laws that are on the books are all directed towards banking institutions and the casino sites themselves. Mind you, I’m not a lawyer but I have researched the subject to death. Never once have I been able to dig up a story about someone going to jail anywhere in the US for playing at an online casino.
The closest I could find was a case from 2003 in which a man from North Dakota paid a $500 fine for betting on sports online. He was charged under an ancient state law but never fought the charges. It is said he won more than $100,000 betting on sports, and that may have attracted the attention of authorities looking for drug dealers. He was charged, paid the fine and sent on his way. It’s worth noting that this happened over 10 years ago and since then, I’ve never found a person who got in trouble under any federal OR state law for online gambling.
The only time you would run into problems is if you decided to start your own online casino. It would not be a good idea to start your own betting site and accept wagers from other people. The government regularly indicts individuals who open online casinos and take wagers from Americans. Don’t do that.
In 2006, a piece of legislation called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed in an effort to crackdown on online gambling. Poor news reporting led people to believe that the UIGEA had criminalized online gambling. This isn’t true. What the UIGEA did was target the banking industry and make it illegal to knowingly process payments for unregulated betting sites.
Many in the banking industry publicly opposed the UIGEA, calling it burdensome and unworkable. With billions of financial transactions processed every day in the US, it nearly impossible to single out transactions bound for offshore casinos.
The UIGEA was passed anyways and the banks comply the best they can. This is why the occasional deposit to an online casino is declined even though the player has the funds to cover the deposit. Some transactions are successfully blocked. Most transactions are processed just fine, but don’t be surprised or alarmed if your credit card deposit is declined. All you need to do is try a different card or use a different deposit method.
It’s always best to check the law for yourself, but the shortest answer is that you’ll be fine placing bets at any US online casino site. We’ve all placed countless bets on the internet and so have millions of other US citizens.
Mike Murphy founded OnlineCasinoSites.com and brings 15 years of experience in the regulated online gambling industry to the team, with a mission statement of helping gamblers navigate the rules and laws of playing at legal online casinos world wide.